The Kings’ mercurial internal search for a first-line left winger has led them to team captain, and natural right winger, Dustin Brown. When the Kings play Chicago tomorrow night, Brown will become the sixth player — following Ryan Smyth, Brad Richardson, Andrei Loktionov, Scott Parse and Dwight King — to start a game in that spot. When I talked to Brown at the end of the 2008-09 season, after a stretch when he had been playing on the left, Brown said he “would prefer the right side” but also said, “I have no problem playing left wing.” So we’ll see how it turns out. In pairing Brown and Wayne Simmonds with Anze Kopitar, coach Terry Murray is clearly looking for some energy and havoc, and players who can create space for Kopitar. Will it work? Here’s what Murray said about the move today…
MURRAY: “I’ve been battling with the thought of putting Brownie back on the left wing, last year and at times this year. I really felt — and I do feel, still — that he’s a right winger, a power-forward right winger, but I had a meeting with him this morning, to discuss the importance of putting your top group of guys together, consolidate and work our way out of this. He assured me that he has no problem with it. I know that he had a great Olympics with the U.S. team, playing on the left side. I did have him there a few times last year, and he’s fine with it. It gives me two veteran players with Kopi. I felt that Kinger [Dwight King] did a good job there, but the fact of the matter is, he’s a young guy and there are some areas of the game that we need to finish better, and have extended time in the offensive zone. I think it gives me that look now, with Brownie up there.”
Question: For any player, what’s the biggest adjustment to switching sides like that?
MURRAY: “It’s receiving passes. It’s more on the breakouts in your own end. The puck is coming up on your backhand, and your positioning is different. You’re facing your D, you have to turn, make a pivot differently to make that second pass. But one thing that I’ve seen with Brownie, in his play, he’s got such a powerful, strong base, and he’s such a strong guy, that he’s able to handle the pressure that’s coming to him from the checking side of the game, and continue to make that play. Or he’s quick enough to be able to carry the puck, himself, out of that situation. On the plus side, attacking off that left-wing side, for him, with his speed, to be able to pull it and go hard to the net, is a very favorable look for the player on that side.”
Question: Is this something you see as a long-term move, or more temporary?
MURRAY: “Well, we have injured players right now. Ponikarovksy is out of the lineup with a broken finger, and so when he’s healthy and back at it, it helps me fill a spot we’re missing right now. So I can’t say it’s permanent, no. We’ll make that decision when we get there.”